Jacinda Ardern urges UN involvement following strikes on Syria

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded to the military action by the US, UK and France in Syria, saying New Zealand "accepts why" it was carried out.

She said the Government was advised on Saturday morning (NZ time) the strikes would be taking place, and is urging a multilateral approach to Syria overseen by the United Nations (UN).

Ms Ardern expressed frustration at UN members using their veto powers to block multilateral responses to such issues.

"The Government has always favoured diplomatic efforts and a multilateral approach. The use of the veto powers at the Security Council prevented that course of action. We have always condemned the use of the veto, including by Russia in this case," said Ms Ardern.

"New Zealand therefore accepts why the US, UK and France have today responded to the grave violation of international law, and the abhorrent use of chemical weapons against civilians.

"The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians. We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.

"It is now important that these issues are returned to the United Nations multilateral processes including the Security Council."

US President Donald Trump announced the military action as it was launched, saying it was in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against civilians.